Like My Father Always Said . . .: Gruff Advice, Sweet Wisdom, and Half-Baked Instructions on How to Fix Your Stuff and Your Life

Like My Father Always Said . . .: Gruff Advice, Sweet Wisdom, and Half-Baked Instructions on How to Fix Your Stuff and Your Life

by Erin McHugh

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A collection of crowd-sourced quips and quotes from real-life dads—from the profound to the hilarious.
The author of Like My Mother Always Said . . . presents a new volume that focuses on fatherly advice—gathered from contributors around the world. Dads may come from different places and have wildly varying personalities, but sometimes their wisdom is universal. Other times, it’s just plain bizarre . . .
“You can have as much freedom as you can pay for.”
“Nothing happens when you stay home.”
“Drink only one beer at a time.”
Covering a variety of subjects including “The Facts of Life,” “Growing Up Right,” and “Ask Your Mother,” Like My Father Always Said . . . is packed with hundreds of gems—the perfect book for anyone whose dad ever tried to steer them right.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613127933
Publisher: ABRAMS, Inc. (Ignition)
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 684,114
File size: 6 MB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Erin McHugh is a former publishing executive and author of more than twenty books of trivia, history, children’s stories, and more, including One Good Deed and Like My Mother Always Said….

Read an Excerpt



Who do you look up to more as a kid than your dad? He's a mountain man, a genius, a great pitcher, taller and faster than your friends' dads. He can do anything, that's for sure. And by the time you find out that maybe that's not exactly accurate ... it really doesn't matter anymore.

Daddy never said much, but he could yodel with the best of them. He was raised a Missouri farm boy but he was a cowboy in his heart, ridin' the range, ropin' dogies. My cradle songs were "Red River Valley" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"; he told endless bedtime stories about Jed Thumper, a giant jackrabbit who was always up to no good and bore not the slightest resemblance to his distant cousin Peter; my heroes were Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and we'd have long, serious discussions about which one was really the King of the Cowboys.

– JAYNE, daughter of Ferrell

My dad was a Navy Seal, so he had no tolerance for his daughters' whining or complaining. He used to say the only time we might be able to miss school for pain or illness would be "if your arm was cut off and hanging by a thread." Anything more minor than that, well then, off to school we would go. He also loved to use the Navy Seal motto, "The only easy day was yesterday," to remind us to face our daily challenges and to keep on truckin' (yes, it was the seventies).

– JENNIFER, daughter of Barry

My dad was a mechanic by trade — and a good one at that. He knew how to diagnose a problem and then correct that problem without needless delay or excessive parts replacement. He was so good he could even diagnose a problem over the phone. One of the things he told me when I was getting my driver's license was that he really didn't care very much if I could start the car. The most important thing with a car is if you can stop it. I was sixteen and thought he was crazy. But if you really think about it, he was so very right.

– TOM, son of Henry

I've been in the book industry my entire adult life, so I probably shouldn't admit this, but I don't really remember reading in bed at night as a little kid. Nor do I remember my parents reading to me in my pj's. But that's because I have another memory that most kids do not. My dad and I sang torch songs instead.

After I got in bed, my father would come up and give me a back rub, and then we would start to sing: Sinatra standards, Irish songs, show tunes. We sang in rounds, we excelled at duets, and harmony — well, we killed at harmonizing and always did, even when I grew up.

Give me "Rosie O'Grady," "The Good Life," "Lida Rose," "Show Me the Way to Go Home" — name it, I knew every word to these songs and more, and remember them all still. What can I say? We virtually sang our way through my childhood. When I worried about being smart enough, popular enough, whether I'd get on the team, I always knew how my day would end. It's my favorite memory of growing up.

– ERIN, daughter of Jimmy



Ever notice how fathers have a certain way of avoiding the subject if they need to? When you were a kid, you took what your dad said as gospel, but as you began to grow up, you found yourself occasionally thinking, "Heeeey, wait a minute! What th'..."

Whenever there might be a potential squabble looming among us siblings, Dad would look over his newspaper at the three of us and ask, "What do you know about freight trains?" We'd be so busy trying to figure out the answer to his question that we forgot about our argument. Dad would go back to reading his paper and we three kids continued to play while discussing freight trains.

– DENISE, MARC, AND PAUL, children of Marcel

My dad disliked eating in restaurants with low lighting. He felt it didn't allow you to see your food properly, and when we'd end up in one he'd always say, "What's this, a cheater's joint?"

– CHRIS, daughter of Andy

When we were little and my parents entertained, my father would mix cocktails and we kids would deliver them to the guests. My dad would punctuate these special deliveries with, "Midget waiters! Makes the drinks look bigger!"

– LEO, son of Bud

Any time you asked my father to do something he didn't want to do, he'd say, "I'm afraid I can't do that. I've got a bone in my leg."

– BRYAN, son of Carl

My father always would say, when something scary happened to the family, like a serious illness that ended up coming out good, "Well, we dodged a bullet!"

– LIZA, daughter of Orville

My dad always said, "Every day is Christmas." You see, his name was Natale Felice, which means Merry Christmas. He was born on Christmas Day.

– TOM, son of Tom (né Natale Felice)

"Take a Sunday afternoon car ride to blow the stink off."

– ROY, father of Doug

If my dad didn't want you to know what he was talking about or what he was doing, he'd say, "Winnermaus." He said it meant "none of your business" in German.

– PATRICIA, daughter of Joe

On interaction with the authorities: "You're all right if they don't take your name."

– BERRY, father of Eliza



How many times did you hear by the time you turned eighteen that there was a right way and a wrong way for just about every situation on earth? Saving money. Manners. Telling the truth. And yes, returning that thing you stole from the store. By the time you had a chance to do things your own way, damn if maybe the way you were taught wasn't the best way after all.

For my twelfth birthday, my father gave me a book, personalized with an inscription:

"Your Bible is the most important and treasured book that you have — may this one be a pleasure to you during all the years of your life."

It was a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette. I thought it an odd choice for a gift at the time, but it turns out it was perfect.

– NANCY, daughter of Walter

"Don't confuse liberty with license!"

– JIM, father of Susie

"I want you to go out there and give it 150 percent!" A little pressure, but not the worst advice for life.

– JOYCE, daughter of Burt

My dad would say, "Before speaking, you should think about what you're going to say for at least ten seconds. Then, hopefully, you'll say nothing." I actually still follow this advice; it drives my wife crazy.

– DOUG, son of Steve

"Always acknowledge a kindness."

My dad loved a game — any kind of game, whether it was tennis, golf, horseshoes, or penny ante poker. And though he just hated to lose, he was a guy who insisted on playing by the rules. In fact, the first fight he and my mom ever had was about playing croquet, and the proper regulations on "sending" the ball.

This old saying evidently was fairly common back in the day, but we actually had a very dog-eared copy of Hoyle's Rules of Games, which was kept on our coffee table. So it wasn't unusual for Dad to say, if anyone questioned the righteousness of anything, whether it was a game or not: "It's strictly according to Hoyle's!"

– ERIN, daughter of Jim

"When you surround yourself with good people and work hard, good things happen."

– DICK, grandfather of Tommy

"So you're at an age now and free enough so that I can't stop you from doing anything you might want to do. Just remember that you always have a choice and can choose to not do anything stupid."

– BOB, father of Bob

"There is only one thing that you can both keep and give: your word."

– CASEY, father of Peter and Paul

"Manners go a long way and they don't cost a dime."

– DICK, father of Dick Jr. and Patty

"You can have as much freedom as you can pay for."

– IRVING, father of Greg

My father was an amateur handyman around the house, which is no doubt where I got my willingness to jump into home projects. One thing he always said was, "Measure twice, cut once!" I live by this little saying in all things in life.

– HOWIE, son of Ted

"Never miss an opportunity to cross out an unnecessary comma."

– SCOTT, father of Genny and Dave

"If you don't invest very much, then defeat doesn't hurt very much and winning is not very exciting."

– DICK, grandfather of Tommy

"If you can't do something gracefully, don't do it at all."

– BILL, father of Kellie

"Would you rather be right or be kind?"

– FRED, father of Dylan

My dad was a special agent of the FBI and a helluva smart guy. He advised my brother, my sister, and me for decades in our respective careers in the law, business, and publishing and we were smart to follow his advice. To my dad, well-crafted letters were the go-to form of communication and he was always urging us to put our thoughts — particularly our praise of others — in writing.

It pays off every time:

"Fire off a letter."

"Shoot him a note."

"Memo the chief."

"Write her an 'attaboy.'"

"Bullet-point the particulars."

Will do, Dad. And I'll "cc" the file.

– JOANIE, daughter of Bill

"Be good, even if it hurts."

– JIM, father of Joan



The world has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, but back when a lot of us were kids, Mom was holding down the fort at home, and Dad was out there fighting the good fight and bringing back news from the front. He had a million suggestions about how to avoid getting steamrolled by life; he was always there to pass on advice, from both victories and defeats.

My father was incredibly disciplined and result-oriented, and he tried to pass on those qualities to us. When I expressed some wish to do something or achieve something or complained that it wasn't possible, he would say, "You can do anything you want if you make up your mind. The hard part is making up your mind."

My sibs and I repeat this still, and often in unison.

– DENISE, daughter of George

"Never back down from a bully."

– TOM, father of Meredith

My dad, driving around one day while I was reading In Cold Blood for the first time, said, "If anyone ever breaks into your home and tries to tie you up, say no. If they're cowards, they will back down and you have a better chance of surviving. If they're going to kill you, they will anyway. At least if you say no, you're giving yourself a chance."

– KAYLIE, daughter of author James Jones

Every time my sisters and I got upset about an unexpected shift in our lives: "Don't sweat it."

– JEAN, daughter of Wayne

"It doesn't worth it." My father was a man who spoke very little English, but managed to form the perfect blend of "It's not worth it" and "It doesn't really matter."

– LESLIE, daughter of Al

"Your attitude determines your altitude."

– PETER, father of Sam

"Keep your head down and stay the course."

– ROBERT, father of Christina

Whether I was at a crossroad of a decision or leaving the house as a young woman exploring the world, Dad would offer two words of advice: "Soyez prudent." Be prudent. I tucked Dad's words away in a vault in my mind. When I had my own three children, Dad's wisdom found its home in my heart. "Soyez prudent" took on a whole new meaning. I still remember those two words when I make important decisions.

– DENISE, daughter of Marcel

"You can't argue by yourself."

– JOHN, father of Danny

"Check your oil and tires once a week."

– JACK, father of Anne

So the night before my first day at E. F. Hutton, my dad took me to a Rangers game. We had great seats, right up on the glass, and it was an exciting game with lots of fighting. That's all I remember, because my dad turned to me at one point and said, "Now I'm going to share the secret of success with you and I want you to listen." He went on to say, "There are three things I want you to do. First, and this is the most important, be nice to everyone you meet, especially secretaries and receptionists. Say 'good morning' and 'please' and 'thank you' and ask them about their weekend and their families. Second, work hard and you'll get ahead. Always get in before your boss and leave after she leaves." Yes, he said "she"! "Third, learn the job of the person on your left and the person on your right. One day one of them will quit and the work will need to get done and you will be there to volunteer to do it." As my mom would say, "Truer words were never spoke!" I did as I was told and the rest is history. I share his story with every training class I speak to. It's been thirty-plus years and still the best career advice I have ever heard.

– SHELLEY, daughter of Marty

"The only bad mistake is one you stick by."

– LOU, father of Sally

"Work like a horse, eat like a horse."

– HENRY, grandfather of Josie

"Don't just stand there with your bare face hanging out. Do something!"

– STANLEY, father of Lucia

"Worry about the elephants, not the rabbits."

– MARK, father of Elizabeth

"Only a fool makes assumptions and then acts upon them as if they were fact."

– RAOUL, father of Nanette

"Stay with the plan." Sounds easy, but my parents started their own business over fifty years ago, and every time someone suggested a diversification, or they were tempted to try something else, Dad came back to that self-imposed rule over and over again. And now, the third generation is "staying with the plan."

– ANN, daughter of Jack

My dad told us (his three daughters) to pick a profession with a name — a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a nurse — because you can always get a good job when no one needs an explanation to understand what it is that you do. He was a credit manager. Bet you don't know what a credit manager does, do you? Also, he told us to marry a dentist: all the prestige of a doctor, no emergency calls in the middle of the night.

So, I'm a lawyer, and both of my sisters are nurses. None of us married dentists.

– SHARON, daughter of Stuart


– DON, stepfather of Kalen

I had just received early acceptance letters from three good colleges, and wasn't sure what direction to go ... law, medicine, or art. My dad was aware of my conundrum, and invited me to lunch at the Baltimore Museum of Art. That's when he imparted this sage bit of advice that I think I've passed along to others at least half a dozen times: "Do what you love." It was so simple, yet it resonated deeply with me. His reasoning was, "You're (hopefully) going to make a career out of what you study, and will be doing it for the rest of your life ... so, choose something you're passionate about. Do what you love." I've followed his advice ever since, and it hasn't failed me yet! And, yes, I chose art!

Sly of him to have chosen the BMA for our lunch!

– LAURIE, daughter of Gardner



At some point, your father sat you down and said, "Let me tell you the facts of life." And guess what: It wasn't the talk about the birds and the bees, it was the one about what a friend is; how to avoid people who might manipulate you; how you'll know you're in love. If you forgot to listen up, here's a little review.

"Just don't be 'that kid.' Whatever the situation, you never want to be the one everyone else refers to as 'Oh yeah, I know that kid.' It's never good."

– KEITH, father of Connor

My dad had a very stressful job at Macy's and was swimming with sharks, so he had to learn to be cutthroat or risk having his throat cut! One of the sayings he often repeated was based on his "kill or be killed" philosophy: "What's bad for me and bad for you is bad. What's bad for me and good for you is really bad. If it's good for both of us, then that's OK. But if it's good for me and bad for you, then that's the best!"

– ANNE, daughter of Albert

"People can always do what they want, they just have to want to do it; they can always find a way."

– J.D., father of Randy

My parents built a very successful business of their own but, of course, the ups and downs were always on their heads. After a slow day at work, my father would say, "It's so quiet I can hear the overhead rising."

– NANCY, daughter of Jack

"Look with your eyes, not with your mouth!" my father would say in response to us kids yelling, "Has anybody seen my ..."

– KIKI, daughter of Donald

"Drink only one beer at a time."

– DAN, father of Annie

"You've got to network," said my dad, constantly, ever since I entered the workforce.

– BETH, daughter of Martin

"Never let the sun set on your anger. Life is too short for negative emotions to linger."

– CASIMIRE, father of Charlie

"No is a complete sentence."

– BRUCE, father of John

"Get an education. It's the only thing they can't take from you."

– DOC, grandfather of M.

"If you let the small jobs add up, they become big jobs."

– JIM, father of Tracy

My dad, when faced with a defect or a mistake, would say, "A blind man on a galloping horse will never see it."

– MICHAEL, son of George

"Ain't nothing free."

– JAMES, father of Dinah

My dad gave me three pieces of advice when I got my first "real" job:

Always max out your 401(k) contribution.

Always change the oil in your car at 3,000 miles.

Always read the sports section so you have something to add to a conversation.

– JOAN, daughter of Dewey

"There's always a little bit of truth in sarcasm."

– PETER, father of Ruth


Excerpted from "Like My Father Always Said ..."
by .
Copyright © 2015 Erin McHugh.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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12 "OH, DAD!",

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